Steinsson: I lived in a garage at start of my career – but it was a nice garage
Few players have gone from one extreme to another, but Gretar Steinsson will complete a remarkable rags-to-riches journey when he lines-up for Bolton in tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final against Stoke.
Having left his home town of Siglufjordur in Iceland to sign for Akranes in 1999 after being promised free accommodation by the 18-times Icelandic champions, Steinsson was handed the keys to a converted garage which comprised one room with a toilet, shower and a bed.
Goodness knows what today's pampered Premier League players would have made of it, but for Steinsson it was just the job.
"It was bigger than the room at my parents house so I was quite pleased," said the Bolton right-back. "Living in a garage is a little bit different but it was a nice garage. Thankfully there were no cars parked in it! A family had refurbished it and it had its own entrance.
"It was really nice. The club helped me out with that one but I lived in two different garages actually. They were both really good. You don't need much when you are growing up. I came from a really small town and Akranes were like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal compared to the team I had been playing for.
"If you are a 17-year-old boy and you're told you can play for those teams but have to sleep on the streets, I'd definitely do it. I wasn't surprised at all when the club offered me a garage. I would happily have slept on the street to play for Akranes."
His accommodation might have been basic but Steinsson's performances were anything but. He earned his first professional contract at the age of 23 with a move to Young Boys in Switzerland, where he stayed for two years before spending a similar amount of time at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
Already on Bolton's radar after an unsuccessful trial at Wanderers, it was while Steinsson was at Alkmaar that then manager Sam Allardyce attempted to sign him.
"I was rejected when I had an original trial here and that just made me more determined to come back and prove someone wrong," said Steinsson. "Sam Allardyce was in charge at the time but it was not possible for him to sign me because of finances... But I was destined to end up at Bolton. It just took a little bit longer than I expected."
Yet Steinsson might have been lining up against four-times FA Cup winners Bolton tomorrow had things turned out a little differently after Stoke fell into the hands of Icelandic owners.
"I almost went there when the Icelandics were in control, but I was still playing in Iceland and wasn't ready," he added.
It has been a bumpy and, at times, uncomfortable journey. But as he stands 90 minutes away from an FA Cup final appearance, it is one Steinsson does not regret making.
Bolton Wanderers vs Stoke City
Lee Dixon’s verdict: A lot of Bolton’s good form has emanated from the displays of Daniel Sturridge and his ineligibility could count against them. I feel it will be Tony Pulis making a return trip to Wembley next month.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (ESPN; Highlights ITV1, 10.15pm)
Prediction: Stoke to win
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